Is this the ‘Year of the Woman’ for LCG?

by Walter Pierce

From left: Koll, Hebert, Zeller, Cook and Ross

There’s a good chance Lafayette Consolidated Government will have its first elected councilwoman in the almost 20-year-history of consolidation when the new council is sworn in come January. It’s astonishing, really, that no woman has ever been elected to represent an LCG district on the City-Parish Council. The same cannot be said for the Lafayette Parish School Board on which women have been relatively well-represented over the years. (“Relatively” is a relative term here; the LPSB has still been, more or less, a boys’ club. And we should qualify this introduction by noting that current LPSB District 1 rep Mary Morrison briefly served on the council to fill the unexpired term of her husband, Purvis, after he was elected mayor of Scott.)

In fact, since consolidated government replaced separate city- and parish governments in 1996, only six women have run for seats on the C-PC, most recently Jan Swift and Linda Duhon in 2007. Before consolidation, Kathy Ashworth served two terms on the Lafayette Parish Council in the ’80s, and Nancy Mounce and Hellen Bellamy served on the Lafayette City Council before that. But women and the council, strangely, have had an oil-and-water relationship.

That could change rather drastically on Oct. 24 when at least seven women will be on the ballot for the C-PC. Two of the three candidates in District 8 are female — business woman Carol Ross and Liz Webb Hebert, convention sales manager for the Cajundome and Convention Center.

Elsewhere, District 1 incumbent Kevin Naquin appears to be safe in northwest Lafayette Parish, but a few miles east in District 2, which covers Carencro and parts of north Lafayette, business owner Charlotte Stemmons Clavier is challenging two-term incumbent Jay Castille.

In the heart of urban Lafayette, District 3 incumbent Brandon Shelvin will have competition, including from a woman who has told this reporter she plans to run but isn’t quite ready to make it official. Another male candidate in District 3 is, according to our sources and the political chatter, planning to challenge Shelvin, whose counterpart in the other majority-minority district (4), Kenneth Boudreaux, has no competition at this point and probably won’t.

District 5 incumbent Jared Bellard has a formidable female opponent: veterinarian Monique Koll, whose catastrophic injury a few years ago that left her partially paralyzed — an injury she famously overcame in completing the New Orleans Rock ’n’ Roll half marathon just months after she was struck by an unlicensed, uninsured motorist while training on her bicycle — makes for a compelling and inspiring story.

District 6 also has a female political newcomer vying for incumbent Andy Naquin’s seat: Sevie Zeller, a mom and editor of a Christian periodical. The favorite in that race, however, is probably former District 6 Councilman Bruce Conque, who is campaigning vigorously for his old seat on the council.

Nanette Cook, daughter of former (and popular) Lafayette City Councilman Al Simon, is in the race for the District 7 seat being vacated by Don Bertrand. An evangelical preacher, Bobby Richard, is also running for that seat.

In addition to Ross and Hebert, Judice Inn owner Gerald Judice is campaigning for the District 8 seat. He is expected to make his bid official this weekend.

District 9 Councilman William Theriot, who sources say has amassed a $50,000 re-election war chest, may not have to spend much: No one has announced a challenge, although reliable sources tell us a councilwoman in Youngsville considered entering the race but recently decided against it.

Qualifying for the election doesn’t begin until Sept. 8, so it’s possible more candidates including women could join the tilt.